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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thais 'must be on hand to object'


Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected calls from the People's Alliance for Democracy for Thailand to boycott a World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, saying its absence would not do the country any good.

Mr Abhisit said yesterday the Thai delegation must be there to raise objections if Cambodia proposes a plan to unilaterally manage the Preah Vihear world heritage site.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti is taking the Thai delegation to attend the 34th session of the WHC, part of Unesco, in Brazil.

Cambodia is expected to propose a management plan for the Preah Vihear temple and its buffer zone at the meeting, which ends on Aug 3.

The suggestion to boycott the meeting was made to force a postponement of WHC consideration of Cambodia's proposed management of Preah Vihear temple, as Thailand is among the commissioners.

"It doesn't do us any good if we boycott the meeting. If [the item] is tabled for consideration, we'll make an objection as we see it," the prime minister said.

Mr Suwit had told him that Cambodia would proceed with its unilateral management plan for the surrounding areas of Preah Vihear temple.

He said the minister - who met the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director during a stopover in Paris - made it clear that Thailand would object, even though the proposal is said not to show the border demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia.

Mr Abhisit has asked Mr Suwit to keep the government informed about the WHC meeting so it can act promptly if the Thai delegation needs support.

"We have to lobby the international community on the issue and follow the meeting closely. I have also told Mr Suwit to inform the cabinet if he needs its support," he said.

The Thai delegation could meet the Cambodia delegation and inform them of the Thai government's stance.

Mr Abhisit said Thailand and Cambodia may compete for the chance to host a WHC meeting in the next two years. He said Thailand will propose to host the WHC meeting.

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Couple Brings Vietnam and Cambodia to Syosset

By Ursola Moore

Married for 54 years, retired schoolteachers Bob and Irma Mandel decided that there was no better way to spend their retirement years than traveling the world. They shared their many journeys during the presentation "Vietnam and Cambodia: From Repression to Recovery" Friday at the Syosset Public Library.

“Traveling is a great way to meet people and learn about another culture. We bring Vietnam and Cambodia right here to Syosset for all to see and learn about,” said Bob Mandel.

Dressed in native attire, the Mandels showed the audience their slideshow Travel Lights with the Mandels, a collection of pictures ranging from the natives' homes and schools to the rice fields, scenic mountains and breathtaking sunsets. They shared their unique experience of seeing these countries up close and personal.

Enlightening the crowd about the inner workings of how individuals live overseas, the Mandels spoke about the many challenges and misfortunes. Living in traditional communities and still utilizing labor-intensive farming methods, Vietnam remains in a struggle to join the industrial economies of the world. While the government embraced free enterprise in 1986, the majority of the population still lives in the countryside, where they fight for survival working in rice fields.

“Their lives are laborious. It is heartbreaking," said Irma. "I was close to tears watching them work in the rice fields. The lifespan is between 40 to 50 years old. The intensity of the hard work shortens the lifespan.”

While discussing Cambodia, the Mandels talked about how they center their lives around family, food and faith. Extended families stick together, solve problems in unison and come together to celebrate festivals. For the majority of Cambodia, survival depends on what they grow.

“Cambodia is poorer than Vietnam," Irma said. "There is a lot of child labor and a lack of education. We found out that the waiters in restaurants work seven days a week, 13-hour days with no tips. These people work and live under some of the most horrible conditions,” said Irma.

The Mandels admitted that in an effort to save money on their many adventures, they stay in hostels and in native families’ homes. Traveling early this year, the Mandels stayed in Cambodia for one week and Vietnam for three weeks.

“According to the homeowners, we were staying in the bridal suite of their home. It was a flat thin mattress on a very hard floor,” Bob said jokingly.

With artifacts such as a tobacco pipe, matrimony balls and incense displayed on the table, the crowd was invited to look over the items.

The Mandels' many travels include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Mongolia. They recommend traveling light.

“We never carry heavy luggage. We use our backpacks everywhere. It makes the trip so much easier,” said Bob.

For Irma, there is nothing better than traveling with her husband to foreign lands.

“We love it," she said. "We meet new people all the time and learn new things. It is wonderful.”

The Mandels are scheduled next to speak at the Port Jefferson Public Library on July 27. For more information about free programs at the Syosset Public Library, call 516-921-7161 or visit
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